Researcher: Maria Goulding
Investigating primary teachers' subject knowledge in a formal way may
induce feelings of anxiety which may depress performance and/or reinforce
an instrumental view of mathematics. The self audit, specimen answers
and commentary, given to students early in their training, were designed
to dispel some of these feelings, encourage self assessment and clarify
the expectations of the later audit. This element of the research set
- to find out what weaknesses and gaps the trainees identified in their
subject knowledge through doing the self audit and using the support
- what trainees revealed about their beliefs and feelings about mathematics
- what strategies the trainees intended to adopt to address weaknesses
and gaps before the audit
After completing the self audit, the students rated themselves on a four
point scale from 'my response was completely secure on this item' to 'I
couldn't begin this question without help', and to write general comments
about their mathematical subject knowledge. The ratings gave information
about the relative difficulty and/or familiarity of the sixteen self assessment
items across the sample of about 400 students in the three institutions.
The free written comments gave data on levels of confidence, beliefs and
feelings about mathematics, and the ways in which students intended to
address their weaknesses in preparation for the final audit. The weaknesses
identified by the students' self-assessment were compared with weaknesses
and strengths on the later formal audit.
In the self assessment the most commonly identified specific difficulties
were in shape and space and graphs and the most commonly identified generic
difficulties were with terminology and with explaining their thinking.
Most students were confident that they could address these weaknesses
in time for the audit although a small number expressed anxiety and panic.
On the audit, reasoning and proof emerged as a common difficulty, and
difficulties with space and shape remained whilst problems with graphs
were much less common. Some differences may be explained by a change in
students' understanding over the period, by differences in the audit or
by differences between perceived and actual difficulties.
- A better understanding of the needs of students with particular concerns
about their subject knowledge, and ways of supporting them on training
- Knowledge which will enable links between self assessment and actual
performance on mathematical items and in practical teaching to be investigated
This research was supported by the
University of York Department of Educational Studies Research Fund